“Tracking the Move from Rock to Pop in East Coast’s Sebadoh and the West Coast’s Modest Mouse”

It of course sounds easier than it actually is: just start writing beautiful, melodic songs, the primary draw of which is chord progression and cute lyric, rather than visceral texture of the music itself. I know, though, that Modest Mouse’s early stuff must be “rock,” and not “pop,” because when I couldn’t find my CD of The Lonesome Crowded West, the two things I put in, in order, were Strung Out – Another Day in Paradise, and Soundgarden – Superunknown, each of which I listened to without skipping a single track. Yeah, I still listen to CD’s. I’m probably, like, supporting Trump or something.
I’d been on a big Modest Mouse kick lately, and one song that really “hit” me, so to speak, was “Little Motel,” from We Were Dead before the Ship Even Sank.
Let’s rewind to 2007, for a bit. We are at the veritable height of music snobbery, on a historic scale. Do not adjust your television: people actually listen to The Sea and Cake, Okkervil River and Xiu Xiu. At least, they journalistically purport to do such said things.
In light of this, who could like We Were Dead before the Ship Even Sank! Such plebian dreck, huh-huh! I mean, I dunno! There’s probably been a frat boy somewhere, sometime, who’s enjoyed it.
Let’s see. The first song isn’t plain. The second one, while bordering on plainness, is obviously fun. The third song, while sedate, is trippy and melodic, and handles weed as subject matter (though singer Isaac Brock would deny this).
Get this: I still REMEMBER the hipster knock on We Were Dead: “It’s so ready for radio.” Thus spake pitchfork review of “Dashboard” as a single. Well, buckle your seatbelts, hipsters. Cokemachineglow.com: dead within eight years. Pitchfork, kissing the ground Taylor Swift walks on within seven years. Anyone expecting the world to start making sense anytime soon is officially advised to not hold their breath.
So is anything GOOD? Like EVER? Hmm. That came out wrong. Cuz like… Isaac Brock is even saying everything sucks. But see, Isaac, you TRAPPED ME IN TO LIKING YOU! I feel like PJ Harvey circa Uh Huh Her, I’m locked in a destructive relationship, though thankfully you can’t actually get STD’s from listening to Modest Mouse. Only Mac Demarco. Anyway, “Little Motel” is more than a good enough song, by song’s standards, for anytime. Let this be fully understood.
There is a distinct reason why Sebadoh, upon its embryonic days, did not explode into widespread commercial popularity. They were indie rock, to a tee, through and through, down to the bone. They even had a b-side song called “Gimme Indie Rock,” a pretty enjoyable little ditty, most squirrelly and full of untoward yelling and all good stoner stuff.
Fast forward to 1998 (or 2008, when I discovered the album used at Denver’s great Twist and Shout Records): they are my perfect amalgamation of Oasis and The Lemonheads. For anyone unfamiliar, Oasis and The Lemonheads aren’t exactly what you’d call “punk.”
Surveying the value of the 1998 album The Sebadoh in my life would be almost immeasurable. It’s rivaled in the punk’s passionate, inspiring understanding in pop only by the Meat Puppets’ Too High to Die, and excepting a couple classics like “Never to Be Found,” “Flaming Heart” and “Backwater,” it’s even more consistent than that album, as well. But it’s still underdog. There still seems to be almost an invisible disclaimer on the front of the album: these guys are never going to take over the world. The rudimentary DNA of the situation prevents it. They UNDERSTAND music too well. It is not a bloody, emotional mess: they’re not growing up before our very ears. They’re not growing up at all (see lines like “Truth could be a game we play”). They’ve hit on something, and it’s underdog stoner rock: at first, angry, disestablishmentarian and “punk,” and then, later, “pop,” indie pop, that boy-in-a-bubble that pitchfork was so sure would live forever, even amidst digital downloading.

22 thoughts on ““Tracking the Move from Rock to Pop in East Coast’s Sebadoh and the West Coast’s Modest Mouse”

  1. Dag meneer Siccama, dank u voor uw prozaïsch verheven reactie. U moest eens weten hoezeer ik in dit aardse tranendal de InaorEu/opeadn adoreer en aanbid. Wat is daar op tegen?

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